Sunday, December 13, 2009

Arranged Marriage, Part Two

Last Sunday, I wrote a post about arranged marriage, which you can view here. Today I'm posting part two, covering virginity, the traditional Indian view of marriage as being between two families (not two individuals), and the generalities of how a match is made.

All text in italics was written by a reader, Barani, who is kindly sharing his first-hand knowledge of this topic. All I've added is punctuation.

In Indian society, it is compulsory that the bride is a virgin.
The only exception is if the groom has a blemish, such as old, bald, poor, handicapped etc.

So very few Indian boys will knowingly marry a non-virgin.
In some cases, non-virginity is hushed up, sort of don't-ask, don't-tell.
If the woman already has a child, then it is impossible to use this fig leaf.
In Indian divorce law, if the bride is a non-virgin, then it is a legitimate grounds for divorce.

So no parent will allow his or her daughter to date.
If a man asks a girl for a date, her brother or father will come after you with a gun or a sword.

More than 75% of Indian women are virgins and 0% are unwed mothers (will lead to shot-gun forced marriage or honor killings).

Next, in the Indian context, marriage is between 2 families because after the marriage, you owe your in-laws as much responsibility as your own family.

Next, until recently and even now to some extent, poverty is widespread in India and the girl's parents want a good earner, not a hunk. Only well employed men need apply, no students.

Now that we have understood that Indian marriages are a merger deal between 2 families, then it means that both of the families must be of comparable socio-economic status and speak a common language.
India has 25 major languages with 20 different alphabets.

So you need to specify, Gujurati, Punjabi etc. to indicate Language.

People like to marry within their own religion, even in the west.
So classified Ads in the west will say Jewish, Catholic, Born-Again etc.
Same way in Indian Ads you have to specify religion.

There are traditional matchmakers in rural areas who do this for a living.
In north-India, the bride has to be same caste, and not closer than 5th cousin.
In South-India, the preference order is sisters daughter, Fathers sisters daughter, Mothers brothers daughter.
If these are not suitable then they search among second cousins and neighbors daughters of the same caste.


  1. Barani,

    You are taking one instance of marumakkal dayam and then slathering all of south india with the same brush. Let's see .. you are taking what applies to approx 2% of south indian population and then applying the same rule to the rest 98%? Where is my quart of Morton's NaCl? ;-)

    Where is the deal about matching horoscopes? You left out what is by far the single most important factor in indian marriages.

  2. Barani,

    Divorce on grounds of the bride being a non-virgin believe it or not applies only to Christians (check Indian Divorce Act of 1889). Also, every state has it own version of marriages acts that supersedes the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. Except for muslims and certain scheduled tribes exempted from the act, marriage between relatives as close as 3rd cousin (maternal) or 5th (paternal) is not valid (see "sapinda" provision in the marriage act).

  3. Barani here
    Horoscope matching stage comes just before photo exchange

    The Hindu marriage act for sapinda provision is only followed in North India

    In South India, cross-cousin and niece marriage is the mainstream version
    Niece marriage is going down, but cross-cousin is the norm for non-brahmin south Indian castes

    As far as popular culture, Tamil movies used to show niece marriages until about 1975 and cross-cousin marriages even today

  4. Barani here,

    Tamil Brahmins have a marriage structure
    midway between North Indians and Non-Brahmin South Indians

    Meaning very few niece marriages, some cross-cousin, but most marriages at 2nd cousin or further away

  5. Holy moly, am an Indian living in Delhi and I didnt know having a non virgin was legal grounds for divorce! What crap! We need to phase out such shitty laws biased against women! Frikkin we are trying to find a marriage partner not a marriage merger. As a man I'd like to hv a non virgin woman :) at least she will appreciate me more than others!


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